This morning, I was lucky enough to be there in person to see President Obama sign an executive order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, as well as explicitly adding “gender identity” to the federal government’s own nondiscrimination in employment policy (which already prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation).
As the President said this morning, while we still have a long way to go in the fight for equality, today’s milestone is an important moment to take stock of the extraordinary progress made “not just in our lifetimes, but in the last five years, in the last two years, in the last one year. We’re on the right side of history.”
By signing this Executive Order, President Obama helps bend the moral arc of the universe toward justice and continues to lead by example, advancing equal treatment and improving job quality for the millions of workers employed by federal contractors. This follows on important executive actions earlier this year, when with the stroke of a pen, he raised the minimum wage of employees of federal contractors to $10.10 an hour, and prohibited federal contractors from retaliating against employees who discuss their wages, ensuring that women who work in these jobs will be able to determine whether they are being paid less than the men working next to them without fear of disciplinary action.
These executive actions set a standard that Congress can and must rise to meet, by increasing the minimum wage for the remainder of the workforce; passing the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would ban punitive pay secrecy policies and strengthen equal pay laws; and passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would broadly prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. But in the absence of Congressional action, the President’s actions today are a critical step, reaching about one in five workers in the U.S., with strong new protections against discrimination. Today is a day to celebrate.